Chapters 5 & 6: Turmoil in the Land of Conclusions
Sadly, since I'm now far more interested in Chelsea's story, the narrative flips back to Jennifer and Axel who are preparing to head to Montreal for the next game. (They're taking a team bus to the private airport. See my comments about the team bus during Play the Man, but at least the private airport seems right. To be fair, I know for a fact some teams fly out of commercial airports, too, though.)
I'm also pleased that the author of this book knows that the NHL players all need to be in suits. Axel is wearing a "charcoal-gray suit that must have been custom-made given his size" (53). I would say custom made anyway given that he's a professional athlete in the top league of his sport and thus making money enough to afford a very nice suit or two and if he didn't have them his teammates would make fun of him.
Jennifer inquires if he'd finished his damage control from their on-screen kiss and he says they need to talk. Unfortunately, this means that Jennifer takes a flying leap into the land of conclusions and thinks that Axel's reticence means he has a girlfriend. Her tour of Conclusionlandia is brief, thankfully, going from saying "I'm not the kind of woman who would try to steal someone else's man--" (53) to "wondering if she could have built this up in her mind on too little evidence" (54), then confronting him about it (also 54), and listening to his teammates make fun of him and/or try to set Axel up with women they know (55). A whirlwind tour, barely a mini-vay.
During said tour, the chapter 5 ends and 6 opens, changing the perspective to Axel who is somewhat confused by this whole experience.
Axel couldn't believe the righteous indignation in Jennifer's eyes, knowing she had zero grounds for the accusation she'd just hurled his way. A smarter guy would probably walk away and leave her to figure out she'd been shooting in the dark with that one (55).
I don't know about smarter. Frankly I think a smarter guy would say "No, I do not have a girlfriend" before he'd let Jennifer get so upset about this and before letting the entire rest of the team chime in, starting with "What woman takes a second look at the defensive goon?" (55).
Side note. This confuses me. Yes, Axel is a defenseman; the text said so at the beginning. But Kyle Murphy, his foster brother and the reason that he (Axel) had been traded to the Philadelphia Phantoms, as part of a package deal, is probably not. I don't know that for sure, though. Regardless, the reason that Leandre Archambault teases Axel here is because "the power forward was sour on both Axel and Kyle Murphy since their arrival had taken him off the first line to go out onto the ice" (55). If Leandre has been bumped, it's because Murphy took his place. But that wouldn't put Axel on the first line, since he's a defenseman. Unless the text means by "first line to go out onto the ice" to be the opening lineup, the five players (including 2 defensemen), but that still wouldn't be Axel's fault, as a defenseman. Also, frankly, it's the coach's choice, so maybe Leandre should be a better player, eh?
Anyway, the teasing goes on for a while until Jennifer finally demands to know if Axel has a girlfriend and then asks if Leandre is Axel's pimp, which is presented as quite the burn.
The question earned a chorus of "ooohh" from the growing crowed of onlookers and Axel decided he'd had enough help from his teammates on the issue (55).
I have a hard time thinking "Are you pimping him out" is such a scathing reply and the idea of the hockey players all going "ooohh"makes me laugh because it makes them look like a bunch of high school kids. The bigger issue is Axel being cranky at his teammates since he could have stepped in at any time and just told Jennifer that no, indeed, he does not have any kind of significant other.
That said, he does tell her about the motorcycle gang in a few more pages, which is kind of amazing. Yeah, we're one-third of the way through this book but even so, the dramatic tension of romance novels too often comes from the characters not knowing Big Sekrits that they ought to, and that isn't where this novel is going. It's refreshing.
Instead of taking the team bus, Axel and Jennifer take her rental car. She has him drive, the narrative suggesting it's a peace offering. Meh, I'd rather have someone else drive. And it's not like her rental car is particularly exciting. But whatever. The narrative gets the two of them alone in the car which accomplishes two things: first, the privacy for Axel to tell Jennifer (and the reader) his backstory and second, DANGER. We'll get to the latter in a moment.
So, there's flirting. And Jennifer says that Axel is cautious, to which he replies:
"One of us needs to be sensible. And apparently that's the role I'm going to get stuck with in this relationship since you're way too reckless" (57).
The text doesn't make a big deal about this. Actually, Jennifer's jaw drops at being called reckless, but my point is that neither of them nor the text make a big deal about the fact that Axel called it a relationship. They met each other the day before. They almost kissed and then they actually kissed. And that's it. This seems odd to me is all.
Speaking of those kisses, Axel wants to know how they’re going to avoid ending up on camera again, which leads to asking questions about why in the world a filmmaker who is known for and only wants to do social just campaigning films has been assigned to a hockey documentary series, and he frets that it’s to create controversy about hockey being too violent. On one hand, I get the fear – it is the first thing non-fans ask about when people learn that I adore/play hockey. On the other hand, it’s such a played out thing; it’s been done.
Axel’s attention to the conversation dwindles when he notices that there’s a motorcycle sticking close to them on the highway, and worse, when it gets in front of them he sees the “all-too-familiar insignia of a notorious motorcycle club that had branches on both sides of the Atlantic—Destroyers MC” (59).
Obviously, I know a lot less about motorcycle clubs than I do about hockey. I need someone else to chime in here about how realistic or not the portrayal of them is within this novel. Besides which, I cannot stop giggling about it. I think it’s just the over-the-top stereotype of bikers.
Especially since the Destroyers are apparently the mafia on wheels and then some.
…his old club had intelligence connections to rival the State Department (59).
How would they have time? Don’t they have drugs to deliver and bikes to ride?
At any rate, the biker brakes directly in front of Jennifer’s car, and Axel has to swerve and then pass the motorcycle.
The guy’s expressionless face told Axel this was no accident. The main pointed his finger at them and flexed his thumb, pantomiming a gun (60).
Wouldn’t, y’know, an actual gun be more useful here? I’m not condoning gun violence (or, for that matter, the US’s terrifying proliferation of guns.) I just mean, if Axel hadn’t had the reflexes to stomp on his own brakes, the resulting accident would be far more likely to kill or maim the biker than Axel and Jennifer, who are both wearing seatbelts and, in fact, are inside a car. I’m sure they could have been hurt, but the biker was sure to be hurt. If this biker’s actions are indicative of the whole Destroyers’ modus operandi, then I think Axel doesn’t have much to worry about, frankly.